Historic record of pasture soil water and the influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation in south-west England

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Abstract

The North Wyke Farm Platform for sustainable grassland research in south-west England contains infrastructure measuring soil moisture and field runoff. Its time series of sensor data is used to validate the parsimonious SH2O-NW model for soil water at field-scale. Thirty-four years of daily soil moisture and runoff is simulated, and used to detect long-term trends and produce a risk analysis. The model accounts for wetter periods of soil moisture and the main summer soil deficit and autumn re-wetting; limitations involve short-term, rapid changes in drying and re-wetting. The soil moisture sensor observations however do not reflect field variability. Analysis of more than one field allows an assessment of unexpected sensor anomalies. The paper recommends that soil moisture sensor confidence levels be provided, for comparison against modelled data. The simulations show a historic reduction in the occurrence of summer soil moisture deficits above a third of water capacity, while the winter precipitation and runoff simulation shows a stable long-term trend, matching the direction and magnitude of the North Atlantic Oscillation Index. A large runoff of 400 m3/day from a 1.75 ha pasture has a 0.07% probability, having a return period of once in 4 years during the 34-year period.

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Shepherd, A., Atuhaire, W., Wu, L., Hogan, D., Dunn, R., & Cardenas, L. (2017). Historic record of pasture soil water and the influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation in south-west England. Hydrology Research, 48(1), 277–294. https://doi.org/10.2166/nh.2016.195

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